SANFROSSA MANYINDA writes @SunZambian
FIRST Quantum Minerals has globally achieved its highest-ever annual copper production of 816,000 tonnes, a 5% increase from 2020.
The achievement is however attributed to record production at its new Cobre Panama mine, and the resilience of its other operations.
Copper production in the fourth quarter of 2021 was 201,000 tonnes.
FQM Chairman and CEO Philip Pascall said Copper production at Sentinel Mine in Kalumbila was 233,000 tonnes for the full year and 61,000 tonnes in the fourth quarter of 2021, 18,000 tonnes and 2,000 tonnes lower than 2020 levels, respectively.
Mr Pascall said the 2021 performance was impacted by failure of train ball mill machinery in the first quarter and a lower grade profile.
“Kansanshi Mine in Solwezi however achieved copper production of 202,000 for the full year, 19,000 lower than 2020, reflecting the depleting oxide ore in the maturing mine and copper production in the fourth quarter of 2021 was 52,000 tonnes, a reduction of 1,000 tonnes from the same period of 2020 because of lower grades and oxide recoveries.
“Plans to invest in additional production facilities to process lower grade ore were contingent on a more favourable fiscal regime,” he said.
Mr Pascall further said Copper and nickel production were forecast to grow to 850,000-910,000 tonnes and 40,000-50,000, respectively, by 2024, while capital cost guidance had increased to US$1,250 million in 2023 and 2024 and US$1,375 million in 2024, principally due to inflationary pressures.
He said total copper sales volumes, for the product from Zambian sites were also impacted by port availability and operational issues, as well as global container freight constraints.
He added that the firm continued to be focused on delivering disciplined and responsible growth, which was reflected in the strong increase in its copper and nickel production through the guidance period.
He also said the mining firm’s commitment was to reduce total debt to levels appropriate for its business and that the targeted debt reduction programme of US$2 billion was expected to be completed by the first half of 2022.